Observing log 23/12/2016 @ 21:45-23:55 Andrew and Rhys Thornett, Lichfield

Observing log 23/12/2016 @ 21:45-23:55
Andrew and Rhys

Pinwheel Galaxy – Messier 33, Spiral Galaxy in Triangulum, “3 Dec 2016, 21:45:23, The Triangulum Galaxy can be very frustrating especially when trying to observe it from light polluted locations such as my back garden in Lichfield. Using my ten inch orion Dobsonian telescope and 14mm Explore Scientific 100 degree field of view eyepiece (ES), i was pretty sure i dropped straight on to it, observing a faint smudge in centre of eyepiece. However the field had moved (as scope is un-driven) during time it took me to get higher magnification eyepiece out of the box. I then found it impossible to re-acquire the galaxy again, even when i tried a light pollution filter, or used 9mm ES, 14mm ES or 20mm ES or even 42mm eyepiece.
The sky is quite dark tonight with the Orion nebulae looking like a bright slash below Orion’s belt but even now M33 is elusive. Oh for the days when we were on holiday in Devon and with binoculars i could see NGC areas within M33!!
Talking of binoculars, i wonder if it is easier to see M33 tonight with binoculars. Hang on a minute – i will pull out a pair….
I have just returned with a very interesting pair of binoculars. These were given to me and are a pair of old 60mm binoculars that were used for horse racing and have loads of little leather patches attached from various race meetings. I am not a horse racing fan but i love the history inherent in this instrument, which comes in leather case and not some plastic thing!
I also bought out with me that most vital of astronomy tools – a tot of Monkey Shoulder blended whisky. Vitally important to help keep hands steady whilst holding binoculars and to warm cold toes. Goes particularly well with couple chocolate biscuits so i bought those too. So, all tooled up, can i now observe M33? I will take a look!
NB Before i do i am shocked to see how far Orion has moved across the sky in the time since i started this observing session.
Indeed, I have been able to see M33 with the binoculars as an obvious smudge. Less magnification really is more plus these binos do have amazing contrast.
I have gone back to using the 14mm ES in Orion Dob and found it there too! Now it is obvious, with a central brighter core and a peripheral area that grows the more i look at it until it occupies central 2/3 of field of view in this 100 degree eyepiece. Wow! OK probably not quite the same wow that Damian has been expressing to me down phone tonight as he described his experiences this week of observing the Northern Lights in Norway, but wow nonetheless.
Having written this note, i have just returned to the scope to find myself shocked how fast the eyepiece has dewed up. Time to pull out extension lead and plug in heater on eyepiece case…first time needed since September this year.
Orion Nebula – Messier 42, Bright Nebula in Orion, 23 Dec 2016, 22:30:37, Rhys came out to join me to look at M42 using 6mm Ethos eyepiece. He described the nebula as a complex spiderweb of filaments forming butterfly shape. Both of us only can see four stars in Trapezium. For all their brilliance, one annoying feature of Orion UK scopes is that they need tools to collimate! I wonder if i can het Bob’s knobs equivalent for this scope? It would help tonight. Slight mIs-collimation means we can’t see stars 5 and 6.
Andromeda Galaxy – Messier 31, Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda, 23 Dec 2016, 23:39:11. I asked Rhys to describe this in detail for this report. All he could come up with was a “spludge”.
Both M32 and M110 visible by direct vision although i think seeing these as much about experience as anything else. Had to point them out to Rhys before he could see them.
First one – an out of focus star – M32.
Second one – faint smudge difficult to see at first – M 110 – Rhys had great difficulty seeing this even when i pointed out exactly where it was.
Double Cluster – NGC 869, Open Cluster in Perseus, 23 Dec 2016, 23:47:58, Rhys describe it as two large groups of stars one bigger than other. All stars are about same brightness and all white in colour. He felt there might be third group in between and slightly offset from the other two in same field of view of 14mm ES. Could not see this myself but this is what he saw.
Bode’s Nebulae – Messier 81, Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major, 23 Dec 2016, 23:55:22, Excellent view of both M81 and M82 tonight. Bright easy to find. Surprises me that this is not always the case – galaxies seem to be easy to see some nights but not others and even these two bright galaxies seem to be at mercy of sky conditions for visibility.
Decided to finish now. Bad excuse I know but it has been a long hard day at work and sometimes i am just too worn out even to observe for significant period of time. Still i have enjoyed seeing old favourites, and spending some tome with my son under stars, just before Christmas.
It would be nice to have enough energy to start stretching my boundaries and start looking for stuff I have not seen before.

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